From tenant rights to workforce housing, New Hampshire lawmakers face a slew of real estate, construction measures

At least 35 bills affecting the industry coming up in the weeks ahead
Statehouse With Seal

(Dave Cummings/New Hampshire Bulletin)

Representatives of New Hampshire’s real estate and construction industry are going to have their hands full this legislative session, starting Wednesday.

They will face bills advocating tenants’ rights at the expense of landlords, a bill to repeal the newly formed Housing Appeals Board and another that would shore up wetlands regulation but also create another barrier to development. And that’s just a prelude to a session that has proposed at least 35 bills that directly affect the industry.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday look will look at two bills intended to protect tenants. The first, House Bill 1133, would prohibit the termination of a when a property is sold.

“In a real estate market like this, a building can be sold in days of being put on the market and a tenant who is under the impression they have seven or nine months left on a lease can be notified they have 30 days to find a new home through no fault of their own,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joshua Adjutant, D-Enfield. “I simply want to make it so the new owner of a building purchased must honor any current lease until the end of its original expiration. This is not a controversial issue.”

The second, HB 1200, would require 45 days’ notice before a rent increase as opposed to the current 30 days.

The committee will also hold a hearing on HB 1216, which would repeal the Housing Appeals Board. Expect strong opposition from the construction industry, housing advocates and business groups concerned about the ongoing shortage of workforce housing.

Finally, at the end of the day, the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee, will hold a hearing on HB 1227, the perennial “fingers and toes” bill what would define wetlands as narrow as 50 feet as prime wetlands. Developers have contended that the change would string wetlands together, making it harder to build without encroaching on them.

The legislation ahead

That’s the first day of hearings. Here’s a sampling of what’s to come over the next few weeks.

Expect more bills related to workforce housing, which a coalition of business groups is backing, particularly in a tight labor market, particularly the NH Home Builders Association.

“We are supportive of any bill that creates housing opportunities,” said Ari Pollack, a lobbyist for that group.

For instance, there are three bills coming up sponsored by Rep. Josh Yokela, R-Fremont. HB 116 would require planning boards to list the types of studies required to render a decision. HB 1098, would prohibit zoning regulations requiring more than one parking space per occupied dwelling. HB 1087 would limit a town’s authority when it comes to lot size.

“New Hampshire has a housing crisis and one of the barriers to increased housing development is the onerous zoning rules towns impose,” he told NH Business Review in an email. “New Hampshire likes to allow each town to have the freedom to govern itself as much as possible, but some of the uses of the zoning powers of towns are ways for something I call ‘homeowner cronyism’.”

Other similar bills include HB 1238, sponsored by Rep. Michael Vose, R-Epping, which would prohibit proscriptions on workforce housing.

“Our state’s inadequate supply of such housing negatively affects people’s lives and the state’s workforce economy,” he said.

Another, HB 1177, would require towns to allow four units to be built on a single lot.

On the Senate side, Majority leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, has put forward a bipartisan bill – Senate Bill 400, which has more than half the Senate as sponsors, that mirrors major housing legislation that narrowly failed last year.

Among other things, it enhances zoning and planning board training, expands tax increment financing to construct workforce housing, extends community revitalization tax relief for such housing and establishes voluntary housing champion certificate programs, which would give communities preferential access to state infrastructure funds.

In addition, look for several other bills dealing with landlord-tenant relations. HB 1408 would require that landlords refund tenancy application fees. HB 1291 would prohibit discrimination against tenants with Section 8 vouchers.

Other bills, both in the House and Senate, would put another $3 million into the lead paint hazard remediation fund set up for landlords to comply with stepped-up lead remediation mandates.

On the construction side, look for a big boost, thanks to the federal infrastructure bill, in road construction. Some will be reflected in the state’s 10-year plan. There should also be more money for school construction and there’s a bill that would establish a school facility planning and development program in the Department of Education and another to add chartered schools to the school construction list.

Also, builders’ groups will be on the lookout for a bill that would require workers be paid prevailing wages on state jobs. This one is sponsored by a Republican, Rep. Max Abramson of Seabrook.

The Association of General Contractors of NH is strongly opposed to it.

“It isn’t so much the money,” said Gary Abbott, AGC’s executive vice president. “Almost everyone is getting the prevailing wage already. It’s the paperwork. Having to verify all the payroll.”

Finally, there are two bills proposed for construction and demolition debris. HB 1544 would prohibit it being disposed of in landfills, while HB 1122 would authorize municipalities to collect it.

Categories: News, Real Estate & Construction